Ordered Liberty

Obama and the ISIS 'Recruitment Tool' Canard

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Pool/Sipa USA)

I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIS than … Barack Obama.

This puts me at odds with Barack Obama, as is often the case. It is worth explaining my reasoning, though, since – as our bloviator-in-chief is fond of saying – this is a teachable moment.

The president of the United States, shamefully but characteristically, took the opportunity of being on foreign soil – in the Philippines with its large Muslim population – to smear his fellow countrymen over their effort to protect American national security. The Republican initiative, led by Senator Ted Cruz, would thwart Obama’s scheme to import thousands of refugees and prioritize the asylum claims of Christians. In response to this “rhetoric,” Obama seethed, “I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL.”

The president elaborated that “when you start seeing individuals in position of responsibility suggesting Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative.”

So tough here to untangle the ignorance from the demagoguery. For starters, asylum does not involve placing comparative values on the lives of different categories of people. And no one would be more offended than Christians at the notion that Christian lives should be valued more highly than those of other human beings. (By contrast, the conceit that Muslim lives – especially the lives of male Muslims – are more worthy than others is a leitmotif of Islamic scripture that is reflected throughout sharia law.)

Asylum, instead, is a remedy for persecution that is controlled by federal law. Obama lashed out at Republicans for promoting a “religious test,” which he claimed was “offensive and contrary to American values.” Yet, because asylum addresses persecution, governing law has always incorporated a religious test. Again, that is not because the lives of one religion’s believers are innately better than others; it is because when religious persecution is occurring, the targeted religion’s believers are inevitably more vulnerable to murder, rape, torture, and other atrocities than co-religionists of the persecutors.

Consequently, longstanding congressional statutes (a) call on aliens claiming to be refugees to prove “a well-founded fear of persecution on account of … religion,” among other things; and (b) require refugees seeking asylum to “establish that … religion [among other things] was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant.”

Despite his diatribe, I’m going to go out on a limb and conclude that this is not news to Obama, a Harvard-trained lawyer who, for seven years, has been president and thus responsible for executing the asylum laws. He is also well aware, though, that the Muslim audience to which he was appealing, in the Philippines and in the broader ummah, does not have a clue about the vagaries of American immigration statutes.

Obama knows, moreover, that because sharia tells Muslims their lives are more valuable than those of non-Muslims, nothing is more apt to rile them up than an accusation that nativist Americans are portraying them as second-rate. And Obama knows that when Muslims get riled up, Western politicians curl up in a “religion of peace” ball and meekly back down. The president may not keep the U.S. Code on his shelves, but his bag of community-organizer tricks is ever at the ready.

One trick that never gets old is the claim that this or that American policy is a primo “recruitment tool” for jihadists.

Of course, the patent cause of violent jihadism is Islamic supremacist ideology. Washington politicians will not concede this fact because that ideology is unmistakably based on a literal construction of Islamic scripture – the Koran, the hadith, and sacralized biographies of the prophet Muhammad.

As it happens, there are ways of construing Islamic scripture that are not as literal. These constructions inform the view of millions of Muslims that violent jihad and systematic discrimination are not ordained in the modern world. These competing constructions, however, do not change the stubborn reality that Islamic supremacism – what we presume to call “radical” Islam – is a mainstream interpretation of Islam followed by tens of millions of Muslims, among them renowned sharia scholars, violent jihadists, and wily Islamists.

Though neither Republican transnational-progressives nor the hard Left will admit this palpable truth, the rationales of the two camps are significantly different.

The Republican moderates are well-meaning but foolish. Lacking confidence or competence to explain the different interpretations of Islam, they fear that if they concede the nexus between Islamic doctrine and jihadism, they will be perceived as “at war with Islam.” So they relentlessly pretend that the “true” Islam is irenic: a noble quest for justice and tolerance. Because these Republicans are more politically progressive than conservative, they delude themselves into believing their soaring words will someday alter reality: If they say “religion of peace” and “moderate” enough times, Islam will actually become a moderate religion of peace, its sharia seamlessly compatible with our Constitution and Western principles – regardless of what Islamic doctrine actually says.

The Left, to the contrary, is neither well-meaning nor foolish. It will not admit the nexus between Islamic scripture and jihadist terror for two shrewd reasons.

The first is that the alliance with Islamists is useful to the Left. I explained in The Grand Jihad why Islamists and Leftists align, despite their differences on important matters like the rights of women, homosexuals, and the unborn. Both are anti-capitalist, authoritarian central-planners, hostile to individual liberty. They become fast friends whenever they have a common enemy – e.g., the Egyptian monarchy, the shah of Iran, or the Western culture of freedom and reason. If the common enemy is overcome, Islamists and Leftists turn on each other with a vengeance because their utopias cannot coexist. But as long as the common enemy exists, they work well together – just as internecine rivalries between Islamist camps (e.g., Iran and al Qaeda) are set aside in order to present a united front against the West and Israel.

What is the second rationale for the Left’s insistence on bleaching away jihadism’s roots in Islamic doctrine? That brings us back to Obama’s claim that the conservative case against admitting thousands of Syrian refugees is a “recruitment tool” for ISIS.

Obviously, jihad does not erupt out of thin air. The American public, which remains widely uninformed about Islam, realizes something must cause the violence, and that the violence will continue unless that something is overcome. For Leftists, this presents a golden opportunity: They understand that our deeply ingrained tradition of religious liberty – a tradition the Left generally abhors – makes the public resistant to the notion that a religion can cause violence, and thus receptive to the assurance that Islam does not.

So if Islam, in the Left’s telling, has nothing to do with the savagery jihadists commit, what is the cause? Obama and his cohort fill in this blank with … the principles and policies they oppose: robust national defense, American leadership in the world, free speech, sovereignty, economic liberty, income inequality, Christianity, Israel’s character as a Jewish state, Guantanamo Bay, military commissions, … even climate change.

Yes, this is preposterous if you’ve familiarized yourself with Islamic supremacism and classical sharia. But, alas, much of America has not despite a generation of jihad from Tehran to Manhattan to Paris. What a powerful rhetorical weapon it is for the Left to claim that what it opposes is not just wrong but the cause of mass-murder attacks.

In the real world, however, it is the sharia supremacist interpretation of Islam that causes jihadist terror. With that as the foundation, jihadist recruitment has little or nothing to do with the pretexts conveniently conjured by the Left. To the contrary, recruitment is driven by one thing: the perception that jihadists will win. As Osama bin Laden recognized, people are drawn to the strong horse and shun the weak horse.

That is why I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIS than … Barack Obama.